Dolphins vs. Buccaneers Preview: What to Watch For
The Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers will go to work in their NFL preseason debuts on Friday night. Bucs fans finally get to see head coach Greg Schiano in action, along with prized free agent acquisition Vincent Jackson and stud rookie, Doug Martin.
For Miami, Chad Johnson begins his comeback and rookie Ryan Tannehill tries to prove he belongs in Miami’s starting quarterback race. Check out the 10 things to watch for in tonight’s inter-Florida contest:
Dolphins QB Battle
Who will it be? How will Ryan Tannehill respond to a live NFL defense for the first time? Who looks better, David Garrard or Matt Moore? This is definitely the biggest thing to look for in this game, especially considering the loser of the Garrard-Moore battle will probably be released.
Doug Martin vs. LeGarrette Blount
Who gets the first team reps? I’ll be intrigued to see if they split first and second team reps and are alternated from the get-go or if one will get the full starting slot over the other on Friday. Blount was listed first on the depth chart, but Martin has been taking more first team reps in training camp. Friday surely seems like an audition for Blount to maintain a significant role in the 2012 offense.
On Monday, Davis was slotted as the #2 cornerback behind Richard Marshall. On Tuesday, the popular HBO show Hard Knocks featured Davis who seemed lackluster, as he told teammates he was tired and as coaches urged him to get more serious and work harder. Is this all an act for the cameras or is Vontae Davis and his work ethic truly a concern for the Dolphins in 2012? He will surely be tested by Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams early in the game as we look for the answers to those questions.
Lauren Tannehill’s location in the stands
Just kidding…but seriously, where is she?
Chad Johnson Sighting?
Will Chad Johnson contribute and if so, how big will his impact be? Is this the Ochocinco of 2011 with 15 receptions or is this the Johnson of old who was capable of 80+ reception years? Johnson has blamed his embarrassing, 15-reception year with the Patriots in 2011 on them not letting him be himself but claims he has found himself again in Miami. Johnson will get a chance to prove that to be true if he can impress versus solid cornerbacks in Aqib Talib and Eric Wright on Friday.
Dallas Clark’s Role
Is Clark running fluidly like his old self? With a new situation, can Clark contribute and if so how much will he contribute? It will be interesting to see if Clark exclusively gets the first team tight end reps for the Bucs or if they will be utilizing second-year tight end Luke Stocker with the first team at all. Friday will be the first indication on whether Clark was brought in for experience and to groom Stocker or if he was brought in to start and contribute immediately.
Can Daniel Thomas provide any value to fantasy owners?
Many fantasy owners, including myself, targeted Daniel Thomas late in fantasy drafts last year when he was a then-rookie. Thomas disappointed in 2011 with Reggie Bush taking a majority of the running back duties in Miami, but it will be interesting to see if Thomas provides anything for Miami or if he can get anything going versus the Bucs backup defense. If so, he still could be a project for the Dolphins, but Thomas is definitely looking to prove doubters wrong with an elevated game in 2012, starting Friday.
The Bucs Defense is improved on paper; will it improve on the field right away?
The Bucs moved Ronde Barber to safety, signed CB Eric Wright, and drafted LB Lavonte David and S Mark Barron who will be in the starting lineup from the get-go. How much of an immediate impact will David and Barron have? Will their physicality in training camp translate to the field against the Dolphins? 2011 rookie LB Mason Foster dazzled in training camp and won the starting middle linebacker job for the season but often couldn’t be found during games. We’ll see how David and Barron respond to their first live test since they’ve impressed in camp thus far. It will also be interesting to watch Ronde Barber transition to safety after a decade and a half at the corner position, which is now occupied by Eric Wright. The new additions and switches work on paper, but how will it look Friday and beyond?
Is Reggie Bush the Reggie Bush of ’11?
It will be interesting to see if Reggie Bush continues where he left off and dazzles after coming off a 1,000 yard rushing season. Bush had five games over 100 yards in 2011 and four of those games were the last four games of the season, ending the season on a high note. Was his first year in Miami a fluke? Or can Bush pick up where he left off and prove that the starting running back job in Miami is his for a while? If he continues to impress, he could be a solid pickup in fantasy drafts since running backs are rather weak this year especially in the mid rounds, so monitor him during this game and beyond.
Both teams’ approaches under new Head Coaches
The Dolphins are now under Joe Philbin, and the Bucs are now under the direction of Greg Schiano. Both differ greatly from the head coaches before them in Tony Sparano and Raheem Morris respectively. It will be interesting to see how both teams respond to the new coaching staffs and the culture changes that accompanied them. That general attitude can surely be detected as they strap on pads for the first time of the season on Friday.